Category Archives: Self Improvement

THE SECRET ART OF LIVING IN THE ‘NOW’.

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Image via Omar Mendoza on LinkedIn: bit.ly/2EDjarX

@psychtoday #livinginthenow #LiveWell #mindfulness

“Everyone agrees it’s important to live in the moment, but the problem is how,” says Ellen Langer, a psychologist at Harvard and author of Mindfulness. “When people are not in the moment, they’re not there to know that they’re not there.” Overriding the distraction reflex and awakening to the present takes intentionality and practice.” [Dixit:2008].

This is true. Living in the now rarely comes easy to anyone. I, for one, have a mind that jumps from idea to idea and thought to thought incessantly. I think if I moved around as much as my mind does, I’ll be the fittest person in the whole world!

It is, unfortunately, the ‘sickness’ of our times. You cannot just focus on work.  While you are there you are constantly distracted by phone calls, colleagues dropping in with assignments or just to chat, and that is just the things you experience while you sit behind your desk. Behind your forehead  your mind is busy ALL THE TIME: must pick up the kids at two, what will be for lunch/dinner, remember the present for Mom, oh and it’s Valentine’s Day….roses, wine, chocolates for hubby, etc, etc and so on and so forth. No wonder we suffer from exhaustion and terminal depression!

‘In the now’ seems impossible, doesn’t it? Well, let me share a secret with you; while you are so busy overthinking everything, planning and plotting your next move or mulling over past mistakes, life is passing you by. You are MISSING EVERYTHING that goes on around you!

Dixit’s article in Psychology Today  gives a few tips on how to practice your ‘now-mindset’ . I’m writing a shorter version for your reading pleasure, but you should really read the full article here.

Below a summary of some pointers for those of us having trouble taming our unruly thoughts:

  1. Stop being so self-conscious.

Do not overthink what you are doing now. Just let go and DO it. If you are, for instance, asked to draw a picture of a flower. Don’t fret about the type, what colour, what medium, how big or small, just GET ON WITH IT! Grab what you have at hand and draw that flower, you may surprise yourself and, who knows, even ENJOY what you did for a change!

  1. Enjoy the moment.

Stop worrying about the future or the past. Let it go and enjoy what you have NOW, here, this moment. If you are, for instance, on the beach, you might think: “The weather is so beautiful, I hope tomorrow will be so sunny too.” While this thought may seem innocent enough, it has already re-focused your mind to what is going to happen tomorrow. While you are fretting about this, the beautiful day at the beach is passing you by and you are MISSING OUT!

  1. Just BREATHE!

Meditation experts and yogis alike know this. Focus on your breathing to bring your thoughts back to the present. Breathing helps us to reconsider things. It may be that you are having a disagreement with a colleague or you are stuck with a maths problem, whatever it is, if you just close your eyes for a second and BREATHE, your mind will literally reorganize itself and bring everything back to ‘the now’. You will be able to think clearer and, by focusing on breathing, all other distractions will disappear.

  1. Flow with the moment.

What is meant by ‘flow’? Well, in short, it means being so involved with something you are doing that you lose track of time. Flow means you are focusing on the task at hand, without even noticing distractions. Dixit mentions the example of a pianist, who will focus on a piece of music, setting himself a goal of finishing the first few bars, then the next and he will immediately hear if he makes a mistake. For him nothing else but the piano and the music exist.

You can do this too by consciously focusing on getting things done, one little bit at a time and actively avoiding distractions.

  1. Accept what is wrong in your life.

Ask yourself this question: if something in my life is so terrible that I cannot possibly change it without enormous effort, should I allow it to spoil my enjoyment of life as a whole? The secret is to understand that your emotions connected with a bad situation is real, it is there, lingering in your mind.  Recognize it and accept it, but do not let it tease you into thoughts of despair.  You can still enjoy every moment, even with bad things going on.

That bad thing is not happening NOW, is it?? It is normal to have moments of sadness or anxiety about that which we cannot control, but focusing all your thoughts and energy on those negative emotions will do no good.  An example may be a car accident. Say, for instance, you and your family are in an accident. The car is written off, but you guys are fine. Yes, you can get all depressed about the wrecked car, worry about the insurance claim, the time you may spend without a car while yours is getting fixed, this is all normal. You may feel sad, upset and anxious, but don’t let those negative thoughts overpower the fact that your family is fine, without a scratch, IN THIS MOMENT! That is something to celebrate, don’t you agree?

  1. Engage with the moment.

I’ve experienced this many times over the years. You’re on autopilot and do things that you are not even aware of. Sometimes when driving, I will end up somewhere and not be able to recall the drive there. Or I’ll do chores at home and end up with a clean house, but no memory of the day. I zoned out completely! This may sound very funny (and it actually is, in a way), but it is also very disturbing to lose an entire day.

We should practice to engage with every moment of our lives. While driving somewhere, look at your surroundings, you may be pleasantly surprised about the view you’ve been missing all this time. When you clean your house, look at the items you’re dusting, appreciate them for a change. Remember, some of the items have stories attached to them and you should enjoy them for what they represent in your life.

I know what you will be saying: “This sounds like work.” Well, that’s the fun part! Being in the now is not work at all. Yes, it takes some practice to change your busy mind habit, but you can start immediately, with small things.

Where ever you are now, just stop for a minute and breathe, take in the scenery, be thankful you’re alive, appreciate the sunshine outside. That, my friends, is all it takes.

You don’t need to bend and shape your life around this ‘new’ idea. Living in the now doesn’t mean setting goals and reaching for the stars. You don’t have to look for it or strive to achieve it, because you are already there.

Do yourself a favour and read the full article by Jay Dixit here.

SOURCES:

DIXIT, Jay.  2008.  The Art of Now: Six Steps to Living in the Moment[Web:] https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200811/the-art-now-six-steps-living-in-the-moment [Date of Access:] February 14, 2018. [Short link: bit.ly/1RJmwrb]

IMAGE SOURCE:

MENDOZA, Omar.  2014.  The power of the now.  [Web:] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20141030214042-195965566-the-power-of-the-now/  [Date of access:]  February 14, 2018 [Short link: bit.ly/2EDjarX]

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The quest for rest: tips to curb insomnia

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Image via Mail Online

#Insomnia #SleepDisorders #Genetics #MentalHealth #SelfImprovement #HealthTips #LiveWell @MailOnline #TrendStatistics @PhilipsResp

In our modern society, insomnia, like depression and stress, has become something that most people are familiar with. I am sure everyone has gone through a period of sleeplessness at one point or another of their lives.

Insomnia, though, is more than just sleeplessness, it is the inability of a person to fall asleep or stay asleep and can go on for long periods of time. Have a look at this definition, “According to guidelines from a physician group, insomnia is difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, even when a person has the chance to do so. People with insomnia can feel dissatisfied with their sleep and usually experience one or more of the following symptoms: fatigue, low energy, difficulty concentrating, mood disturbances, and decreased performance in work or at school.” [Sleep Foundation] Acute insomnia occurs when life circumstances cause stress. This type of insomnia is often short in duration and will resolve itself, often without medical intervention. Chronic insomnia is the inability of a person to sleep or fall asleep for a period of at 3 nights. This condition recurs over a period of at least 3 months.

As I said, modern society causes anxiety and stress, which in turn causes worry, worry that keeps us awake at night. But if you are struggling to cope with your insomnia, there may be another reason than day to day stress. Scientists recently discovered that there is a link between the presence of at least 7 genes and insomnia.

Gina Roberts-Grey writes: “Scientists say some people’s genes increase their stress-reactivity. And that increased stress response increases the likelihood of poor sleep and developing insomnia.” [sleepapnea.com] So if a close relative suffered from chronic insomnia, and you cannot catch some needed shut-eye, your genes may be to blame.

Professor Eus Van Someren, of Vrije University, Amsterdam, and his team found that one of the identified genes has previously been associated with restless leg syndrome (RLS) and periodic limb movements of sleep (PLMS). They also found a strong genetic overlap with other traits such as anxiety disorders, depression and neuroticism [Mail Online].

Mail Online also reports that 1 out of 10 British citizens suffer from insomnia and the CDC states that 1 out of 3 US citizens have difficulty falling or staying asleep [Trendstatistics]. With these statistics in mind, professor van Someren says that his hope is that their research will lead to further study that can help with the development of better medication to treat insomnia [Mail Online].

If you are one of the millions of people feeling fuzzy-brained and schlepping through your days with bloodshot eyes, here are some tips that may help you get that rest you yearn for.

Dragonfire Nutrition says that the “quality of your sleep is closely related to the quality of your waking hours.  Live happily and actively, and sleep will come more easily.”

They came up with ways that can help you calm down and ease into a restful sleep, without medication. Their tips can be introduced into your daily schedule without any effort and many of them are actually just plain common sense. Things like softening the mood with gentle music and low lighting, not eating a meal late at night, exercise, meditation techniques and more.

You can find all Dragonfire Nutrition‘s tips on combating insomnia here.

If you are tired (literally) of sitting wide eyed every single night while your family sleeps the sleep of the just, you will definitely benefit from these tips. Have a look and try them out today. You will not be disappointed.

Good night!

SOURCES:

DRAGONFIRE NUTRITION.  2017.  How to live a sleep-friendly lifestyle.  [Web:] Dragonfire Nutritionbit.ly/2fUtYHh

ROBERTS-GREY, Gina.  Is Insomnia Hereditary?  [Web:] sleepapnea.combit.ly/1R3zO1D

SLEEP FOUNDATIONWhat is Insomnia? [Web:] The National Sleep Foundationbit.ly/2pQP4db

TANNER, Claudia.  2017.  Insomnia is not ‘all in your head’ – it could be in your genetic make-up, scientists have discovered for the first time.  [Web:] Mail Onlinedailym.ai/2wbRwOk

TRENDSTATISTICS.  2016.  9 Fascinating Insomnia and Sleep Statistics.  [Web:] trendstatistics.combit.ly/2kUoyxI

15 Stress Management Tips That Work

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Image via Be Brain Fit

Stress is part of our modern lifestyle. It seems that we cannot survive without it and, even in moments of relaxation, we tend to clench our jaws or frown. These days it is the price we pay for our fast, technologically driven, multi-tasking lives.

Every so often I wish I could be more relaxed. And just as I start thinking I’ve got the hang of it, a thought pops up: “You must remember to type up that presentation/bake that cake/invite so-and-so to the party/take the cat to the vet….”. There is ALWAYS something. Stress and stressful situations cannot be avoided.

Deane Alban shares 15 stress management tips that have been tried and tested. It WORKS!! You will learn how to breathe, not just in-and-out, no, proper, diaphragmatic breathing.

Meditation is also something that many of us have heard of, but has never really tried. Personally I’ve tried it over and over for months (my mind is ALWAYS all over the place) and was about to give up when I got it right…finally. Meditation helps more than just to focus your thoughts and turn inward, it does help with that. But more importantly, meditation makes you more resilient and less reactive to stress by decreasing the number of neurons in your amygdala, the area of the brain associated with fear, anxiety, and stress. [Deane Alban: BeBrainFit]

Ms Alban goes on to describe 13 more self-help ways of relieving day to day stress. Find them all here.

The thing is, stress and stress-triggers or stressors will ALWAYS be around us, and even within us. We cannot ignore it and we cannot change it. It is a fact of life.

However, you can choose how to deal with stress. You can make a difference in your perception of stressful situations and decide to what level you will allow it to affect you negatively. The tools to help you achieve this are there, mentioned in this article, in fact.

Ask yourself this: do I want to allow stress to ruin my life? Or: do I want to take control of the stress and bring change in my life? The choice is yours.

SOURCE:

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Yoga Meditation: start changing your life today

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“Yoga meditation is about quieting a busy mind,’ says Wade Imre Morissette,” [Best Health]

When I started yoga a few years back, I envied  my instructor SO much. He had this aura of absolute calm around him. He spoke softly, slowly and seemed in total control of his thoughts. I would glare at him with green envy while he went serenely about the business of teaching a bunch of old ladies to bend and stretch the old limbs into weird positions.

My mind has NEVER been quiet. I always have a thousand things running through it: what to make for lunch/dinner, where to buy wool for my crochet group, what to tell my next client, how to get funding for my charity. On and on, a constant rumble of ideas, memories, reminders, not to mention those ‘eureka’-thoughts that popped up now and then. In the end it turned out that calming all this chaos in my head was the more difficult part of yoga class. The bending and stretching I did without trouble (oh, I did fall over a few times), but that meditation part…eish!

After much giggling (mostly me), frowning (the rest of the class) and sighing (my ever serene instructor), I finally got it right. After about 6 months (YES SIX!). And boy, how it changed my life. I learned to treasure those moments of utter stillness. Meditation is like cultivating a ‘dream garden’ to which one can return to once in a while to recharge your ‘batteries’.

I noticed that, after half an hour of meditation, sometimes only 15 minutes, I can make sense of all those thoughts and ideas rushing through my mind. It is almost as if meditation causes the thoughts to behave, to stand in line, so that I can tackle each one in turn. These days, if I feel overwhelmed by the craziness of life, I switch off my computer, put my phone on silent and breathe. For just a few  minutes I take a quick stroll through my dream garden. It works like a charm.

Being a lifelong sufferer of insomnia,  I decided to put aside some time for meditation at night, just before bedtime. I’ve been sleeping like a baby ever since. I wake up rested and feeling in control of my life and my thoughts.

I don’t think I will ever be able to achieve my teacher’s serenity, but through his example and calm instruction, I’ve managed to change my daily life from a wild dash to a gentle trot.

Feel like giving it a shot? Why not have a look at this brilliant article, published in Reader’s Digest’s Best Health Magazine? Don’t worry, they explain everything in great detail and you will see, you CAN do it. It may take time, but the article shows you how to begin slowly and, after a bit, you will find yourself wandering your own little ‘dream garden’! I challenge you to try it.

Remember: “Considering that serious yogis spend a lifetime honing the art of meditation, there’s no sense in pressuring yourself to perfect your own meditation technique after just a few sessions.” [Best Health] You see! All you have to do is keep on trying and you WILL reap the benefits. I can vouch for that. So, why wait! Read the full article here.

SOURCE:

Best Health Magazine.  Yoga meditation: A beginner’s guide.  [Web:] bit.ly/2sSLDEP  [Date of Access:]  June 21, 2017.

* Image source: Best Health

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“Who am I?” question answered

By Deepak Chopra, MD [via The Chopra Foundation]

Not many people reflect philosophically on the age-old question, “Who am I?” For practical purposes, everyday life depends on accepting the self that gets up in the morning, eats breakfast, and goes off to work. This makes it seem as if “Who am I?” is a given. But in fact, it isn’t. You are shifting unconsciously from one persona to the next all the time. There is tremendous importance in this fact, because the shifting self isn’t the real you.

Continue reading here.

SOURCE:

CHOPRA, Deepak Dr.  2017. A surprising answer to “Who am I?”  [Web:] The Chopra Foundation.  [Date of Access:]  June 14, 2017.

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